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Read the story as it happened. Starting with the first e-mail I sent to my family and friends, I've compiled my updates I wrote as the story unfolded. Take a few minutes to experience More Great as those who love me did. 

Filtering by Category: Updates 11-20

Update 11: November 23

Melody Raines

Bia, a girl from my small group at my church, bought me a vanilla steamer
and told me how God had made her turn off her TV and pray for me. I tried to
explain how I feel when people tell me they're praying for me. I used words
like "special," "loved," "covered," "claimed by God," but I couldn't find
the exact word. Then Sannaz, one of my college students wrote me, "God loves
you so much. See how precious you are that everyone is praying for you?" Precious.
That's it. When I see how God has recruited an army of people to pray on my
behalf, I feel precious.
So thank you for the vanilla steamers, the meals and the non-chocolate
desserts, the free tickets you won on the radio, all the pink presents, and
the anonymous monetary gifts. Thank you for sitting with me through my chemo
session and cleaning up the side effects afterwards. Thank you for scrubbing
my big garden tub and washing and drying my hair. Thank you for sweeping and
vacuuming my floor, prying open lids and twisting off caps. And thank you
for praying for me. I pray God will show you how precious you are.
Giving Thanks,
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you,
I always pray with joy" (Philippians 1:3-4).

Update 12: November 28

Melody Raines

The port-a-bump returns. On the morning of Dec 1, I'm visiting my friends at
Seton Hospital again. I'll come home that afternoon with a new chemo port
and the accompanying bump on my chest. My surgeon plans to plant this one on
the right side. He'll make me symmetrical again with matching scars.
I'll get the port just in time for my next chemo treatment (Dec 5). After my
first round of chemo I was miserable. But this time I'll know better than to
stop at Bath & Body Works to smell all the anti-bacterial soaps. I had no
idea I would be so scent sensitive. I was violently ill soon after the Bath
& Body mistake. For the next three days, even the smell of tap water made me
sick. Once I started eating again, I met with my small group from my church.
Brook lifted the lid on the cake she had made. From five feet away I
commented, "Mmmmm. I can smell the icing." Now everything smelled good and I
ate everything I could smell. But it all tasted like cardboard. My olfactory
senses were overcompensating for my lack of taste buds. Aren't these
amazing bodies we walk around in all day?
I hope you enjoy using your tastebuds today. I'm grateful for mine.
"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside then out; you formed me in my mother's
womb. I thank you, High God--you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am
marvelously made! I worship in adoration--what a creation! You know me
inside and out, you know every bone in my body; you know exactly how I was
made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an
open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of
my life were spread out before you. The days of my life all prepared before
I'd even lived one day" (Psalm 139:13-16 The Message).

Update 14: December 5

Melody Raines

Thank you for praying for and helping me prepare for my chemo session today,
but it didn't happen. I don't have enough white blood cells. We're going to
try again next week (Dec 12). I have that
my-professor-gave-me-an-extra-week-to-work-on-my-paper feeling. Not only do
I get to eat for the next three days, but I also get to karaoke with my
small group tonight.
I'm up and about again after my surgery on Friday. The port is still a
little painful, but this time I don't feel like my head is about to explode,
and I'm not swollen from my fingers to my ear. It looks like I don't have a
blood clot. But it looks like I have a smaller port this time. The catheter
doesn't extend to my neck, which means my scars are not quite
symmetrical—pretty close, though. I also have a smaller bump now.
Okay, it's time to take my port into the kitchen where I will enjoy some
chicken parmigiana. That's so much better than Jell-O. Ahh, taste buds.
P.S. I'm doing my part to Keep Austin Weird (see photo).
"I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with
braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds,
appropriate for women who profess worship to God" (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Update 15: December 15

Melody Raines

I borrowed my mom's update this time. For security reasons, I've changed my friend's name.


Dear Friends,


I am in Austin today. Melody had her chemo on Tuesday. Her blood counts were sky high (thanks for praying). I sat with her while they gave her the Red Devil and she is surviving. She vomited twice but has slept a lot. I'd rather sleep than vomit! Last night she began to feel stronger and I hope to feed her some real food today. I leave tomorrow morning to go home.


Melody's friend from Central Asia, Anya, is visiting, so I am spending the nights with Melody's friend Christy. Christy and her husband Ryan are a gracious young couple in Melody's community group. Another couple, Jocelin and Marcus, have offered their home to us to use for the Christmas holidays while they are in Hong Kong. I am always amazed at God's provision. 


You would be blessed to know Anya. When Melody went to Central Asia, she stayed with Anya for a few days. While Melody was sleeping, Anya read Melody's Bible. When Melody woke up, Anya began to ask Melody questions, and with Anya's provoking thoughts, Melody explained the plan of salvation. A few months later, at the urging of a fellow student, Anya accepted Christ and she is a bold witness. She has only been a believer for 2 years and is extremely knowledgeable about the Bible and its deep understanding. She is currently a student at Ohio University and visiting Melody for the holidays. Her education in the U.S. is another miracle. I love the fact that Melody only had to go to Central Asia and sleep for God to work His plan!


One afternoon I took Anya to the Univ. of Texas and the State Capital. We took the guided tour of the capital and after I explained to her what a hog was, she laughed out loud when the guide was talking about Gov. Hogg naming his daughter Ima Hogg. She loves repeating the story!! She is delightful and a joy to my heart. Maybe one day you will also get to meet her. 


I cannot explain the feelings of my heart. Sad, because my Ashley is not here. Glad, because I am greatly blessed to have had her in my life and know that I will see her again some day. Excited, because the Creator, and God Above All Gods, the I AM, cares about the smallest details in my life and has prepared my path. Blessed, because He uses you to reach out and love me and my precious family. 


Please continue to pray for Melody's healing and her endurance to have her mother stay and care for her! What is worse? Having cancer or having your mother live with you? <smile> Pray for Larry's surgery on his arm on Wed. Dec. 20th in Birmingham. And yes....he has to live with me, too!!! But, oh....he is glad!!!! Pray for Jennifer and me that we will stay healthy and survive all this attention Melody and Larry are getting! It is a great thing that Jennifer and I love to take care of people! 

I love and adore you. I brag about you all the time to my friends and to my Heavenly Father.


Update 16: January 1

Melody Raines

I wish you knew how relaxing it is to let a hot shower massage your bald
head. (Go ahead and "Amen!" that, Uncle Tim.) Tomorrow I'll have my third
round of chemo. I expect to lose the last of my hair by the end of the week.
Thanks for praying.
"We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long
haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength
God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into
joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in
everything bright and beautiful that he has for us" (Colossians 1:11-12 The

Update 17: January 22

Melody Raines

6 months
1 move
3 jobs
No job
1 fatal car accident
4 surgeries
4 rounds of chemo
And "not a day goes by without his unfolding grace" (2 Corinthians 4:16 The
Tomorrow: chemo and grace
Thanks, everybody.

Update 18: January 30

Melody Raines

A healthy female has 12-14 g/dL of hemoglobin. I have 7. That's dangerous.
That's why-haven't-you-passed-out-yet anemic. Unfortunately, my lab results
arrived after chemo man left for the day. The nurse will call me tomorrow
morning (Wednesday) to tell me if chemo man wants to retest me or send me
straight to the hospital for a blood transfusion. I have a feeling I'll be
making friends at the Seton NW blood bank.
Melody the Friendly Vampire
"In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,
in accordance with the riches of God's grace" (Ephesians 1:7).

Update 19: February 8

Melody Raines

My friend Erin recently had her portrait made by Bill Bastas
(, one of the best photographers in Austin. Between poses,
she found out Bill's wife died of cancer in April. He's currently working on
a book of Austin's breast cancer survivors. All proceeds will benefit
our local breast cancer organizations. So last week Erin took me to meet
Bill. I've attached my picture and essay for THE SMILE NEVER FADES.
Fortunately, Erin didn't take me to get my picture made until after two
generous Austinites gave me their blood. My hemoglobin is now back up to 10
g/dL, and the nurse said I'm pink again. Then she told me to quit eating so
much spinach. Because spinach is high in iron, I'd been eating two servings
a day to combat my anemia. Did you know vitamin K causes our blood to clot?
One cup of spinach has 1120% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K.
Oops. No wonder I'm on blood thinners.
No, that was not a typo. 1120%!!!
"She can laugh at the days to come" (Proverbs 31:25).

Update 20: February 12

Melody Raines

Tomorrow (Tuesday) I start the second stage of my chemo protocol. For the
first 12 weeks, I received two drugs once every three weeks. They made me
really sick. For these next 12 weeks, I'll receive a third drug every week.
Tomorrow I'll also start my 52 weeks of Herceptin, the wonder drug that only
works for those of us who have the HER2/NEU protein. I don't know how I'll
react to this new cocktail, but I've heard it's not as harsh as the first.
As a precaution, they'll load me up on Benadryl before they poison me
tomorrow. That should make me sleep through any other side effects.
I hope you get lots of chocolate for Valentine's Day. I'll be getting lots
of sleep.
"He gives to His beloved even in his sleep" (Psalm 127:2 NASB).